The blog has had a bit of a holiday of late. I’ve found it hard to get an edge on many occasions on the Flat this year and have largely been waiting for the National Hunt season to re-emerge properly.
It’s my first suggested bet of the new jumps season which prompts an entry on the blog with a race of ante post interest this weekend.
The main focus for jumps fans may well be the return of some top class chasers in Wetherby’s Charlie Hall chase but it’s a race at Ascot that takes my interest far more.
The William Hill Hcap Hurdle at 250 is the race and it’s the place terms offered at this stage that made me sit up a bit more when seeing initial prices come out.
Considering only 18 runners are left engaged at the 5 day stage I was a little surprised to see all but a couple of firms offering ¼ odds 1234 for this race. I’ll be mightily surprised after the usual fallout there are still 16 runners there at the final declaration stage – so the chance to take the first four places may not be around for too long.
Last year’s easy winner Sign of a Victory returns with a stone higher handicap mark and shares early favouritism. If he gets the same ground conditions he may well take a hand but his form did take a nosedive last year once he encountered slower ground. Ascot’s current forecast predicts rain this week – chiefly on Wednesday and Friday – so I would be erring caution in getting involved with him too early. It’s also a little disconcerting that his connections put him through the Doncaster sales ring in May and he was led out unsold.
Sharing favouritism is John Ferguson’s Nabucco. Like so many of his charges, this one was once very useful on the flat (Listed class and reaching a career high mark of 109). He’s only had three runs over hurdles and his last two wins at short odds on tell us very little to judge on whether he has kept enough ability to make light of his opening handicap mark. His debut run over hurdles behind Cardinal Palace doesn’t really make him look that well in but he could well have improved since. This is far more competitive than anything he has faced so far over timber so until he really proves himself in this sphere, I find him poor value at current odds.
Even harder to judge is Paul Nicholls’ Urubu D’Irlande who has only one run (and win) over hurdles to his name. The fact that he hasn’t run for nearly a year does suggest he has had problems since then and his experience over jumps would again be a worry.
Urubu D’Irlande did make all in his only hurdles run and if he turns up on Saturday he looks one of the few runners who will be happy to lead. There is one obvious contender for the front running role though and it is primarily this that makes Rayvin Black my selection for this race.
Grand National winning trainer Oliver Sherwood improved this one from a mark of 119 to a high of 135 last year and he first came to prominence when making all in a decent handicap at Sandown in January. He again impressed with slick jumping up front when trying to follow up at Ascot after that but found the extra half mile trip too far then. Returning to 2 miles his best effort came in Sandown’s Imperial Cup when fending off all bar Ebony Empress close home. I think that race was if anything a bit more competitive than what he might be facing this coming Saturday.
A disappointing run at Haydock at the end of the season seemed to confirm that Rayvin Black should be kept to right-handed tracks.
He reappeared two weeks ago at Kempton but could never have really hoped to outrun a horse like The New One from the front. The trainer reports on his website that the effort did enough to ‘blow the cobwebs off’ though and I hope that will make him cherry ripe for Saturday.
The forecast rain will definitely be to this one’s advantage. While I am not linked to connections to confirm he is a definite runner, the fact that regular rider Thomas Garner (he can claim his 3lb allowance here unlike at Kempton) is already listed as riding him on the Racing Post website has to be a bonus.
The most likely danger currently in my eyes would be recent Market Rasen scorer, Cloonacool. This one hasn’t been dealt harshly with only a 4 lb raise for that success. He moved up to take the lead very smoothly there and considering he seems to be the type who doesn’t do much when he hits the front, he is probably value for a good bit more than he won by.
He too is already ‘jocked up’ and would seem a likely runner. While that last win was on good ground, this one also has decent form on softer so the forecast may be immaterial in his case. A slight concern would be that Paddy Brennan seemed to suggest that the gelding would prefer smaller fields after that race. Connections will be hoping the race cuts up very badly if that is the case! Nevertheless, I wouldn’t put anyone off taking a pretty fair 10/1 on this one as a back-up bet (am sure he would be a fair bit shorter if the trainer was better known)
0.75 pts ew Rayvin Black – Take 20/1 with BetVictor, Paddy Power or 888 who currently offer 4 places (note that Corals are only paying first 3)
Good luck all and thanks for reading